Why I Love Finding Resources for You
Someone once told me that the hardest thing about acquiring any language is having to continuously find great content to immerse in. At first, I thought, Noooooo, I’m always going to love digging up new content day after day. I live for this!
Now after a few years of immersing myself in Levantine Arabic resources, I have to admit, they were right. Sometimes I love finding new content, but other times I think — Good riddance, am I gonna searching for great content my whole life?!
Yet, I’ve observed that times I’ve found it easiest to continuously immerse were when I’ve had a rolodex of hot and popping TV shows, songs, and YouTube channels that I wanted to explore.
My dry spells always happen when I can’t find anything to immerse in that really inspires me.
So in this article, I wanted to do you a favor and save you some time! Here are 5 Levantine Arabic resources that are keeping my fire burning. And I hope they’ll light you up too!
What I’m Listening To
1. Hip-Hop/Pop Album: Kazab by BigSam (Palestine)
You ever hear an artist’s voice and think, “Dammmmmmmn, WHO IS THIS?” That’s BigSam for me.
The first time I heard his voice, I was washing dishes. Qooli came on from his 2020 album, Kazab, and I stopped everything — water still running, soap all over my hands.
The moment the chorus hit (1:18), I started screaming. The beat was so HARD, I couldn’t believe this was in Arabic.
Perhaps what I love most about BigSam is the timbre of his voice. While I’m sure he’s still only in his early 20s, he sings with such depth, I can only wonder what he’s been through in life.
I’ve never heard a song by him that I didn’t love. He’s a mix of hip-hop/pop. I’m sure he won’t disappoint you.
2. Poetic Love Song with a twist: Ana W Bass by Elissa (Lebanon) and W Btir by Ziad Bourji (Lebanon)
Elissa is probably one the first Arabic artists who I listened to and absolutely loved.
Back in Arabic class in college, my teachers tried to force feed me Umm Kulthum and Fariouz. And although I know this is blasphemy to say this: They really weren’t my cup of tea.
Then, I heard Elissa’s Asaad Wahda album back in 2013 and have appreciated her music ever since.
Eventually, I decided I’d had enough Elissa, and made my way down the rest of the playlist. But when I arrived at Ziad Bourji’s song “W Btir“, I was confused. Wasn’t this the EXACT same song that Elissa just sang?
I listened to both songs back to back. Yes, they were. I started digging for how this could’ve happened, and this is what I found out.
Although Ziad Bourji composed “W Btir”, he gave Elissa the full rights to record and release the song as “Ana W Bass”. So how did they both end up with the same song?
Ziad alleges that he told Elissa he would release “W Btir” in honor of his 10th marriage anniversary. She denies the conversation ever happened.
Sounds like a quagmire? Well, it is. Elissa and Ziad are currently in court.
Who do you think sang it better? Honestly, I can’t choose, but Twitter definitely has thoughts.
What I’m Watching
3. Unscripted Conversations: Zaher TV (Mainly Syria, and Assorted Levantine Accents)
Zaher is a Syrian man from Homs who conducts street interviews with Arabs living in Berlin. Most of the people he speaks to are also Syrian, due to Berlin’s large Syrian population. But his videos offer a range of accents.
From what I’ve observed, this YouTube Channel is designed to help people (and refugees in particular) who are thinking of migrating to Germany, gain an accurate picture of what to really expect.
Zaher himself is an incredibly energetic host and he’s collected a cast of characters that he’s interviewed more than once like Abu Watan (1:02) and Al Khal (0:51). Al-Khal is honestly my favorite — he’s spirited and erratic, and a tad bit crazy depending on the time of day.
Overall, I think it’s a wonderful Levantine Arabic resource to hear how people really speak Arabic when it’s completely unscripted.
Everyone Zaher interviews speaks quickly so don’t worry about understanding every word. Just pop on the video in the background and use it as passive immersion instead.
What I’m Reading
4. Translated Short Stories and Novels: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 2BR02B by Marhabtain (Syria)
The short of it is this: If you want to ramp up your Levantine fluency, reading should be high on your list. And that’s not just for Levantine Arabic, that’s for any language. Don’t believe me? Here’s what linguists have to say about the importance of reading.
The problem is that historically short stories, novels, and books have never been translated into dialect.
That is, until now.
Starting in 2022, I decided that I wanted to offer our community translated books and stories in Levantine Arabic. I worked with my dear friend, Majd Al-Rishani, who is the baddest translator in the game, if you ask me.
We focus on translating works from authors you already know and love.
So far we’ve published Kurt Vonnegut’s science-fiction classic, 2BR02B, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous satire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The books are B1 level and above, but we’ll be starting with A1/A2 resources soon.
And if you’re a lawyer — don’t come for me. Everything we translate is copyright-free.
5. Podcast Transcripts: Yalla Arabee (Lebanon)
Lemme just take a second and give a shoutout to Grace Landsberg — she’s a longtime reader of Marhabtain Arabic and has actually implemented the methods I talk about on Marhabtain.
As a result her Arabic has improved immensely. She’s now a grad student in Beirut and created a Levantine Arabic resource website with her partner, Samer, called Yalla Arabee.
Grace and Samer have a podcast called “Transit Station” which tells the stories of famous writers, thinkers, poets, and social justice leaders from the Arab world. And one of the best additional resources they provide are: free podcast transcripts in Levantine.
Get your Anki decks ready! We bout to make some note cards!
Lastly, I’m inspired to see more and more Levantine learners create resources and businesses to support this amazing community. Go Grace!
Which of these Levantine Arabic resources speaks to you the most? Let me know in the comments and I’ll respond.